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The Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit

The University of Montana

Sarah Bassing - M.Sc. Candidate - Wildlife Biology

Advisor - Mike Mitchell


Natural Science Building - Room 312


Project Title:

Assessing gray wolf population dynamics under sustained harvest regimes in the Rocly Mountains


B.S. Wildlife Biology, University of Montana, 2008


Broadly, my interests are in predator conservation and human-wildlife conflicts.  I've worked on a variety of wildlife research projects throughout the western US since 2006, ranging from tule elk demography in California, to bald eagle conservation in Arizona, and wolf management in west central Montana.  I began working for the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit in 2010 as a field technician and ran wolf rendezvous site crews in southwest Alberta for the past three years. 


Based on observations made in the field, genetic data, and wolf harvest data, wolf mortaility appears to be particularly high in southwest Alberta and few resident animals survive from one year to the next.  Due to high harvest in this region, managers are unable to maintain radio collars in the wolf population and do not have current demographic estimates or a wolf monitoring program in place.  Southwest Alberta is a working landscape; a mosaic of cattle grazing, oil and gas development, and outdoor recreation.  Managers and local communities alike are keenly interested in the wolf population for management purposes but high turnnover in the population makes long-term monitoring difficult.  My objectives are to develop a wolf monitoring framework specific to the southwest Alberta region based on noninvasive monitoring methods and to better understand how current management practices are driving wolf population dynamics such as pack turnover and population growth.

I began developing exploratory patch occupancy models to estimate wolf pack distribution and abundance in southwest Alberta prior to starting my graduate work in 2014.  I plan to continue refining these models as part of my graduate research by testing additional covariates and finding innovative methods to address model assumptions in my study area.  I will expand my models to a multi-season framework to estimate pack turnover rates through local colonization and extinction probabilities in an attempt to better understand this dynamic system.  In addition, I will use the genetic data collected in southwest Alberta, as well as from concurrent work conducted in central Idaho, to better understand the impacts sustained, liberal harvest regimes have on wolf population growth.  I am particulatly interested in assessing source-sink dynamics in these two wolf populations and plan to use population model simulations and parentage-assignments to evaluate relatedness and immigration rates within these populations.

Natural Sciences Room 205

Missoula, MT 59812